Mario Giacomelli – The Black is Waiting for the White


Copyright the estate of Mario Giacomelli published 2009 Contrasto

I know that sharing my thoughts on Mario Giacomelli (b. 1925 Senigallia, Ancona, Italy – d. 2000) retrospective “The Black is Waiting for the White” is a tad overdue. Okay, better late than never, eh?

For the selection of photographs that I have curated to illustrate this book, I have to begin with one of Ciacomelli’s more iconic and surrealist photograph from his series Scanno (1959). I also have to admit that seeing this photograph for the first time a long time ago was a very startling experience for me. My very first impression was that the MoMA (NYC) had made a very big mistake including this photograph in an exhibition. My sensibilities were that such that a photograph should look “natural”, that if there were any retouching, it should not be noticeable to the viewer. And this graphic photograph was in direct contradiction to everything I thought a photograph should look like, as I felt it was very apparent to even the most naive viewer, that it had been heavily manipulated. As you might suspect, I was caught up in the physicality of a photograph, not the symbolism or poetic intent of the image’s content. Interestingly, this single photograph also had the most impact on me as Giacomelli’s name and image were as though seared permanently on my memory.

To not understand that Giacomelli was all about interpreting, not illustrating, poetry is to really miss a basic understanding of his extensive body of work. To creatively interpret a poem allowed Ciacomelli to feely manipulate his black & white photographs, pushing the boundaries, to distill an image as part of a creative act of poetic investigation.

His idea of using photographs as a narrative can be traced to his first series in 1955, “Verra la morte e avra i tuoi occhi” (Death will come and have your eyes) at a time when interpretive photographic narratives were relatively unknown. Life and Look magazines, as well as most others at this time, had been publishing photographic stories, but these were very straight and documentary photographs and the story was relatively easy to read.  Ciacomelli has stated “Why do I tell stories rather than using single images as many do? Because you can develop an idea in a story, whereas a single image is sometimes only a beautiful image and nothing more.”

Giacomelli continued to interpret poetic work by creating photographic series for the remainder of his life. In additional to providing the singular images from his various series, this book provides an overview of each of his series in a compilation of thumb nails, which are sequenced chronologically. It should also be noted that Giacomelli felt that there was a specific sequence for the photographs of a series in which for them to exhibited or displayed.

If you wanted one comprehensive book that examines Giacomelli’s extensive body of work, or to provide a retrospective overview for your Giacomelli collection, I would recommend this book.

This dense hardcover book with dust jacket was edited by Alessandra Mauro with essays by Christian Caujolle, Alistair Crawford, Goffredo Fofi, Simone Ciacomelli, Paolo Morello, Ferdinado Scianna and Roberta Valtoria. This book also includes a Biography, Exhibitions & selected Bibliography and is beautifully printed by EBS in Verona, Italy.

by Douglas Stockdale for The Photobook








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